Natures Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muirs Botanical Legacy

Overview

Cultural Writing. Natural History. Art. Images by Stephen J. Joseph; foreword by David Rains Wallace. Stunned into awe by the orchid Calypso borealis, John Muir wrote: "I never before saw a plant so full of life, so perfectly spiritual, it seemed pure enough for the throne of its Creator." Muir was blessed throughout his life with a love of plants. He tucked away interesting specimens from wherever he traveled, sent them to herbariums all over the country, and wrote passionately of them to friends and colleagues....

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Overview

Cultural Writing. Natural History. Art. Images by Stephen J. Joseph; foreword by David Rains Wallace. Stunned into awe by the orchid Calypso borealis, John Muir wrote: "I never before saw a plant so full of life, so perfectly spiritual, it seemed pure enough for the throne of its Creator." Muir was blessed throughout his life with a love of plants. He tucked away interesting specimens from wherever he traveled, sent them to herbariums all over the country, and wrote passionately of them to friends and colleagues. Skilled in the technical aspects of botany, Muir also found in plants "pleasure so deep, so pure, so endless." The revelatory beauty of plants provided inspiration that suffused his career as a writer, adventurer, and environmental advocate. In this opulently produced book, photographer Stephen J. Joseph presents images of plants collected directly by Muir, while scholar Bonnie J. Gisel richly lays before us the life and words of a man at once familiar and surprising, a towering figure forever smitten with "nature's irresistible, divine beauty."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597141062
  • Publisher: Heyday Books
  • Publication date: 10/15/2008
  • Pages: 258
  • Product dimensions: 12.14 (w) x 11.12 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword David Rains Wallace Wallace, David Rains

Introduction Pure As a Plant

1 From Scotland to Wisconsin: In the Fullness of Nature's Glad Wildness 1

2 Canada and Indianapolios: To Botanize in Glorious Freedom 15

3 Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico: Scarce a Familiar Face among the Flowers 55

4 California: The High Sierra and Yosemite 77

5 Alaska: Nature's Own Reserve 121

Epilogue: The View from Muir's Plants 153

Appendix Searching for Muir's Plant Friends 157

Plant Gallery Citations 167

Technical and Aesthetic Application 201

Notes 205

John Muir's Botanical Bibliography 217

Bibliography 225

Index 241

About the Authors 248

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  • Posted November 22, 2008

    the botanical interests and work of John Muir

    John Muir, like John Burroughs, is identified with California. This identification along with Muir's Thoreau-like attachment to nature and his enthusiasm for it make Muir's involvement with nature seem like a celebration of the promise of openness and renewal in American life even as America has reached the continental Western border.<BR/><BR/>Muir--surprisingly to many--was born in Scotland. He journey to California was a roundabout one. Muir's family emigrated to America in 1849 to join the Disciples of Christ sect in Wisconsin. His father worked a farm. Drawn to the study of nature and with the famous explorer/naturalist Alexander von Humboldt as his inspiration, Muir went to state agricultural fairs, took a science course at the University of Wisconsin, read as many science books as he could, and bought his first scientific instruments. It was during this period of young manhood when Muir first became interested in botany. He always wished to be recognized first as a botanist; but from his own family religious yearnings, Humboldt's naturalism colored by spirituality, and the influence of his science teacher at Wisconsin, Muir had a somewhat deistic rather than strictly scientific or specialized outlook on the natural world.<BR/><BR/>The world of nature was opened through botany. "Anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." After finishing his course and gaining a basis for study of the natural world, Muir journeyed north to Canada, to Kentucky and the shores of the Gulf of Mexico before being drawn to the Sierra Mountains and Yosemite Valley in California. Muir's travels are recounted focusing on his botanical studies. The most notable feature of this work are the many enhanced photographs of plants Muir encountered in each region and took notes on. Many of these photographs are full-page; and there are sections of page after page of the photos with no text. In the appendix titled "Plant Gallery Citations," the pictures of all the plants are repeated in miniature with the date Muir took notes on each as recorded in his notes and a quote by Muir relating to the plant. Text with frequent passages from Muir's writings recount his biography and the range of his interests and work in the natural world.<BR/><BR/>The book is an exemplar of exceptional editing, design, formatting, and production down to the extensive bibliography and detailed index. It's as visually attractive as it is substantive regarding Muir's all-important interest in botany.

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